UTAH (ABC4) – Many people look forward to their 16th birthday as a chance to finally get their driver’s license.
But for Daniela Bergantz, who will turn 16 on May 2, this marks the day she can donate blood, which is a big deal in her family.
Her dad, Dan Bergantz, will donate blood for the 100th time as Daniela donates for the first. Dan says it was his wife, Lisa, who helped him start this journey.
“We were newly married, and she had been donating blood for a number of years and I had never really engaged in that practice much, so she had encouraged me to start doing it… and the fact that she couldn’t anymore was another factor in encouragement,” Dan says.
According to Dan, his wife having lived in Germany on a military base made her ineligible to donate blood. But that restriction recently changed, and Lisa is planning on joining Dan and Daniela when they donate on May 8, she says.
Since it’s only safe to donate whole blood once every few months and not more than five times in a year, Dan’s one-hundredth donation means he has been donating often for many years. And at one point, he was notified that he was a rare donor. But he says it’s not because of his blood type, which is common.
“Due to a combination of various antibodies that I have in my blood due to various things I’ve been exposed to over the years, it creates a scenario where I am part of the national rare donor registry,” he tells ABC4.
Though he’s not exactly sure what this means or if his blood is used differently, Dan’s rare donor status has made him want to keep coming back.
“For me, that has kind of mentally been an encouraging factor to continue with it. Everybody’s blood is beneficial and helpful to society, but I think for myself that was an extra encouraging factor,” he explains.
Despite making it to his 100th donation, Bergantz says he isn’t planning to stop donating anytime soon.
“It’s one of those things where I’ve always felt that sense of wanting to help others in whatever way I can,” he says. “I think every child goes through various phases where you think, I want to do this or be this, and I never ended up being in a profession where I could save people’s lives. I’m not a firefighter or a first responder or a doctor or nurse or something of that nature, but I’ve always very much revered those professions and others like them and just felt like the opportunity to help others and serve others, especially when it comes to saving lives is just an amazing thing.”
Bergantz says this has been in the back of his mind since his wife got him started on this journey years ago.
“I’m not able to do any of these other amazing things that people do to help others, but at least in some small fashion, I know that this is helpful to others. It’s the least I can do to give a little bit of time every few months, go in and experience the small little pain of the needle, and help out others,” he shares.
His advice to others thinking of donating blood?
“I would say it’s definitely worth it. It can, at times, feel like a sacrifice, especially if you make the commitment to do it frequently…you don’t get much out of it except a good feeling. There’s no reimbursement, no compensation. I don’t get to know who the recipient of the donations are, but I always think about them and think, hopefully, my donations are able to truly be utilized in a fashion that it helps save somebody’s life, and that feeling is something I think that we all want to feel,” he says.
And there are different types of blood donations, he says, so people can choose the type that works best for them.
“If an individual is donating whole blood, the way I do, the restriction is you can’t do it any more frequently than every eight weeks. For platelets, you can do it much more frequently because it’s a different process and you don’t lose as much blood volume as part of that process. What I would say is whatever commitment an individual wants to give to something like this, my admonition or my thought is it ends up being something that someone would realize is worth it,” he explains.
For Daniela, the idea of donating blood didn’t really occur to her until recently, she says.
“I never really thought about it before a few months ago and the year leading up to my 16th birthday when I was eligible to give blood, so I was just wanting to try it out…” she explains.
She says that she would go with her dad when he donated blood sometimes.
“It’s pretty cool thinking how both my parents are able to give blood, and now I can for my first time. It’s cool that my mom wasn’t able to donate blood for the longest time, and I’m just glad that they changed the questions so she’s able to,” she says.
She says she’s always been afraid of needles but she’ll just have to suck it up.
Dan says he’s proud of his daughter’s decision to donate blood. He says she is “cautiously willing to try it out.”
“It’s one of those things where first you feel delighted as a parent when you see your child willing to be able to do things that seem difficult to them but, nonetheless, they realize is a good thing, so they’re willing to take that plunge and try to engage in it,” he shares.
And though he says she isn’t yet sure if she’ll stick with it, he is happy she is giving it a chance.
“I think more so than anything, we’ve always talked about it as a family as I’ve had the opportunity to continue to go in and donate every few months each year…I have the bandage on my arm. The kids will see that and ask some questions sometimes,” he says.
He says giving blood is a way that almost anyone can help.
“We all want to feel that we’re able to help others in some way, and this is definitely a way that anyone, if they don’t fall into a category of restriction, anyone who is able to donate can absolutely help out in that way.”